The Masungi Georeserve in Baras, Rizal got immensely popular for its well-managed and exhilarating Discovery Trail. Nature lovers reveled in the natural rock garden playground where they traversed through forest trail, find their balance on giant hammocks and savor the scenic rocky peaks while learning more about the surroundings. But this trail is only a part of the huge 2,000 hectare Masungi Karst Conservation Area. Just recently, the Masungi Georeserve Legacy Trail was opened as a separate offering. The new trail highlights the project’s conservation efforts, immersion and insight into the challenges they continue to face.
Masungi Georeserve Legacy Trail
The jump-off for the Masungi Georeserve Legacy Trail is at KM 46 of Marcos Highway, where a ranger station is located across the marker. The place is also called Lawa by the locals as there’s a small lake in the area. Just like in the Discovery Trail, our group would go through the mandatory briefing from our guide. We don’t have to don any helmets this time but an optional wooden walking stick and straw hat is available for visitors.
The trail I would say is quite easy and relaxed as we had to stop several times for additional inputs from our guides. The first ones regarding the land grabbing issues in the area, treasure hunters who dig holes, illegal loggers, quarrying and other legal battles the conservation faces. Despite these, conservation efforts move forward as evident on the development of the Legacy Trail. From dirt trail, stone paths are placed to keep people from veering away from the trail. Just like in the Discovery trail, forest rangers are steadily manicuring the pathways. The Kawayan (bamboo) trail, early on the trail looks wonderful in itself but it wouldn’t be bad to jazz up the trail with decorative plants as well.
We reached the hills, the open trail leading to pine area which is the endpoint of the Masungi Georeserve Legacy Trail. It was. a scenic walk on a dirt path flanked by turmeric plants. Panoramic views of nearby Rizal mountains and Laguna lake. Along the way are fruit bearing trees with edible berries we delighted in consuming like duhat.
Then comes the heart of the legacy trail, the immersion in conservation. We meet park ranger, Ando, a former kaingero turned ranger and is responsible for planting thousands of seedlings along these vast slopes. As part of the activity, guests are encouraged to plant a tree which would involve clearing the area of unwanted grass, mulching the soil for moisture retention and keeping the ground cool by placing the uprooted grass over the soil. The essential part as well is tree nurturing which a lot of tree-planting programs have overlooked. The georeserve overlooks at least 20,000 seedlings from indigenous trees has been planted since 2017.
Amihan among the Pines
My altimeter tells me we’re around at least 700 feet already above sea level when we reached the pine forest. A surprising find in the area and also the last few remaining on this mountain side. Lunch was served on a scenic overlooking section among the pines. Minalot, a grilled pork, rice, salted egg and tomatoes meal wrapped in banana leaves were served on the table. Paired with pitchers of the refreshing gumamela (hibiscus) tea.
After all the hike, we were given free time to roam the Amihan. An area with suspended rope platform which acts as a giant hammock amidst the trees. Tiny yet cozy triangular and cylindrical huts are suspended in the air where guest can take a little nap. All materials used here are light, low-impact and temporary for conservation sustainability. Seriously, as the park will give you a blanket and a pillow for some forest bathing slumber. Nothing like revitalizing our energies in nature while hanging and relaxing while chit chatting with friends.
Immerse into Nature and Conservation
The Masungi Georeserve Legacy Trail can be booked for a group minimum number of 7 pax up to 14 pax during weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The introductory rate is P 1,000 per person which includes the ranger guide, reforestation immersion, minalot lunch mea prepared by the local community and access to the Amihan area.
The georeserve employs local communities particularly Dumagats and mostly speaks the vernacular with some English. At the end of the hike, visitors are given certificates and they can check back in a few years time on the status of the trees they planted.
Hiking tips and advice:
- Wear light and comfortable cloths for hiking
- Shoes are preferred or closed sandals
- Sunblock, lotions and natural insect repellant (citronella) are provided at the jump-off point. You can also bring your own especially for those who are susceptible to insect bites.
- Visitors can bring their own snacks but any trash taken in should be taken out, even the biodegradable banana peel.
- There’s an open area on the trail so bring hats, arm sleeves or even an umbrella
- Avoid boisterous behaviour
- The park provides clean restroom facilities at the jump-off and at the Amihan area.
- Bring extra clothes for a change
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.